Civil defense plan would protect elite, critics say

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A $1.5 billion proposal to set up special command posts in the event of a nuclear attack is one option being discussed as part of a review of the nation's civil defense program. But the proposal, circulating in the Reagan administration, is generating controversy. The communication posts would protect government officials from radioactive fallout in a nuclear attack. But the public would not be able to receive this same kind of protection.

The Washington Post recently reported that the new proposal would encourage the public to rely on ``self-help'' rather than the massive evacuations the administration proposed in 1982.

Samuel W. Speck, associate director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said the new plan would not move away entirely from massive evacuation. He said the agency believes that, because of smaller, more accurately targeted nuclear weapons, ``in many instances it would make more sense for people to stay in place.''

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Sen. William Proxmire (D) of Wisconsin called the plan ``a serious mistake.'' He compared it to Soviet plans that protect the elite and leave others to fend for themselves in the aftermath of a nuclear attack. ``I doubt if Congress is going to go along with this.'' The thrust of the plan, Senator Proxmire said, is to teach people ``how to build their bomb shelters, how to dig a hole, how to insulate it as well as they can.''

The shelters are meant to enable government to help people in a crisis, not protect an elite, Speck said. ``What has been discussed is making sure that across the country we do have adequate emergency operating centers, where you have adequate communications facilities.''

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